Friday, 9 June 2017

Lockerbie trial translation problems

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2000:]

Judges in the Lockerbie trial have ordered an urgent inquiry into translation facilities after complaints from the two Libyan accused.

Defence lawyers said that poor translation meant the two defendants did not fully understand the proceedings at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

After retiring to consider a motion, the presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, said the two suspects would be given verbatim Arabic transcripts of the proceedings since the trial began on 3 May.

The men's legal teams had told the court their clients said they were receiving an "interpretation" of proceedings and not an exact account.
Although not referred to in court, the argument hinged on Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that the accused has: "The right to be informed promptly, in a language the accused understands, in detail of the charges."

Defence counsel, Richard Keen, told the court: "An accused is entitled to understand the evidence that is being provided by the Crown in a case against him.

"Interpretation has to be practical and effective. The interpretation here seems to have been far from that."

Mr Keen said the men, who are accused of causing the deaths of 270 people when a Pan Am jet exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, were entitled to a verbatim translation.

However, under the translators' contract they were instead receiving an "interpretation" of witnesses' statements.

Mr Al-Megrahi's counsel, William Taylor, cited a 1942 case in Scottish law in which an appeal court over-ruled convictions of three Polish soldiers on the grounds of inadequate translation.

If the issue cannot be resolved by the court in the Netherlands, it could be referred under the European Convention for Human Rights to the High Court in Edinburgh, and then to the judicial committee of Britain's Privy Council, Mr Bonnington said.

On Thursday, the court heard evidence from two members of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

The men, their identities disguised, described how they had found electronic timers similar to that allegedly used in the Lockerbie bombing on two men detained in Senegal 10 months before the Lockerbie bombing.

According to the indictment, the defendants ordered 60 of the timers in 1985 and late 1988.

However, the defence has suggested that US authorities attempted to frame the defendants.

[RB: 1. The indictment did not allege that Megrahi and Fhimah ordered sixty timers, but that the Libyan Government did.

2. A person standing trial in a Scottish criminal court is not “the defendant” but “the accused” or “the panel”.]

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